There’s a beautiful song by John Michael Montgomery about a service member overseas receiving letters from home. He reads each of them aloud to his buddies, as they have all waited for these notes to arrive. The first comes from his mama. The second comes from his girl. The third comes from his daddy. That last one makes him cry. His buddies laughed at his mama’s southern lingo. They laughed at his fiancée calling him “honey.” But they don’t make a sound when he cries at the words from his rather stoic father – “Son, you make me proud.” The beautiful words left him in tears, and the song lyrics remind us that there ain’t nothing funny when a soldier cries.
As a social worker for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), I sat with dozens of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and even marines who cried. Tears because of PTSD. Tears because of guilt and shame. Tears because of grief and loss. Tears because of sacrifices they endured. And although we should remember these sacrifices daily, the United States of America sets aside one special day a year so that we can, as a nation, recognize and thank those that served. That day is Veterans day – November 11th.
According to the VA, Veterans Day began as Armistice Day (the ending of WWI) in 1919. The term Veterans Day was used beginning in 1954. This is 98th year of recognizing those that has served in any branch of the United States Armed Forces. It’s important to understand the difference between this special day and Memorial Day, as the latter is reserved for remembering those who were killed in service to our great nation. It’s also important to distinguish between Veterans day (recognizing those that have served) and Armed Forces Day (recognizing those that are currently serving). Some folks, like my husband, are both a veteran and a service member – Lt. Nick Shaler is a veteran of the active duty NAVY and currently serving as a Reservist. On Veterans Day, I honor him along with his father (a Marine who served in Vietnam), my uncle (who also served in Vietnam), and all veterans. Won’t you do the same? Here are some tips for offering your thanks:
- When you see someone wearing a hat that reflects time in the military, walk up and say “Thank-you for your service.”
- If you own a business and can do so, offer some sort of discount for veterans. You don’t know how much even a 10% discount means to veterans.
- Share on your social media account a note of thanks and tag veterans you know so that it is personalized.
In offering your thanks to veterans, please know that they do not serve for glory. As one veteran once said to me in response to my words of appreciation, “You were worth it.” Whether a veteran was drafted or volunteered. Whether they served stateside or overseas, in war time or during a pocket of peace. Regardless of the branch and regardless of the length of time. Those that served believed America – Americans – were worth it. Let’s prove to them we are, and let’s show them how much they are truly appreciated.